Masters of creativity are masters of creativity because they know “how“ to think and not necessarily “what“ to think. If you really want to become more creative, you can become (significantly) more creative both in your personal and professional life by adopting a specific mindset and applying particular strategies and techniques. You might not become the next Albert Einstein. However, you certainly will become (much) more creative than someone who does not know the contents and methods described in this article. You could even become a master of creativity yourself, if you were willing to work hard enough on yourself.
Aoccdrnig to rsecherach at Cmabrdige Uinvrevtisy, it deons´t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny ipmrotnat tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghtit pclae.
By nature we have the talent to make sense out of these mashed letters as we have the gift to immediately see essential aspects as the human mind looks at things in a holistic manner.
The only problem is that as adults we have unlearned and forgotten how to look at things differently and how to think like a child. Pablo Picasso once said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
In other words: How can we re-learn how to think like a child?
I´m very fortunate having worked in the past for some of the most creative and innovative companies in the world. What I´ve learned and practiced there in respect of increasing my own as well as others´ creativity I´d like to share with you in this article which was also inspired by the superb books of Michael Michalko: Thinkertoys and Cracking Creativity.
FIRSTLY, you need to follow a specific creative thinking attitude as the basis for any sustainable improvements. It consists of three levels (topic of this article). Afterwards, in a SECOND STEP, you can train your creativity skills by utilizing different techniques and exercises (topic of my next article when I´ll present you my favorite creative techniques and practical exercises).
LEVEL 1 – Acquire And Cultivate A Creative Thinking Pattern
Thinking without Limits and Limitations
Consider yourself as an active subject rather than a passive objective. Meaning you´re the acting and driving force. You can do, influence, and change whatever you´d like to do. If you believe it, you become this person and the world around will follow you. If, however, you were to limit yourself by believing that you can´t do it, then your environment would make you to adjust to it. Often the difference between a creative and non-creative person is that the creative person believes that she is creative and the less creative person believes he´s not. A very powerful technique is to repeat to yourself or to write down what psychologists call positive affirmations.
Acting like a creative Person
Once you´ll have started visualizing yourself as a creative person by having applied e.g. positive self-affirmations, you´ll start believing that it´s true. And with such a belief it will become true, since naturally you´ll focus more on related occasions and own behaviors which will lead to good personal experiences and successes. And success will breed more success. You will begin to be more creative than you would have thought possible at the start. Once you assume with deep and honest intentions the role of a certain person, and if you constantly cultivate her behavior, her modus operandi, her movements and motions, her way to approach topics, eventually you´ll become very similar to this person.
Being Joyful and Positive
Creative people are what I refer to as HPCDA persons, i.e. happy-positive-can-do-attitude persons. They think in terms such as “what is,“ “how to do it differently,“ “what else can be done“ instead of “what is not,“ “how not doing it,“ or “what else is not working.“ They would look for various options and would create their own solutions and reality.
Deciding to be Happy
If you are negative, you can´t be creative. Your thoughts affect your attitude, which in turn affects your behavior. To close the circle, in return your behavior determines your attitude. The good news is that you can change your thoughts yourself. With will, energy, and focus. A successful technique is to trigger positive emotions by thinking for some moments about joyful and pleasant social occasions (e.g. gathering with family and friends, great parties, etc.) Another effective technique is to model and to mimick happy people: their faces, voices, postures, etc. Unconsciously we´ll be come happier ourselves.
Strenghthening your Resilience Level
Getting back on track again after difficult experiences and loses, not giving up, and instead bouncing back into the original, or even into a stronger position than before, is what we call Resilience. There are people who naturally possess certain personality traits that assist them coping with setbacks and bringing them quickly back on a good track. Today we know that many of these skills can be learned by anyone. As such they will help you to tackle past or upcoming problems head-on and to become more creative and more successful. Resilient people just would never give up until having found a solution.
Being determined to learn
Creativity is like many other personal characteristics not something which is genetically determined. Although many people still believe so and/ or would like to think so in order to make things easier for themselves by pretending that they are not able doing and learning it anyway. In reality, there is no secrete to creativity. You do not need a magic wand to acquire creative skills. Instead a strong will and deterrmination is needed to embark on the ceativity adventure by wanting to study specific startegies and techniques.
Never accepting the first best Solution
Some people will never become a master of creativity based on one simple reason: As soon as they have found an answer or a solution, they stop thinking and searching. They´re happy gobbling down fastfood and not willing to wait for a nice steak, lobster, and a salad in a nice restaurant. They are satisfied with the first best solution which comes along. Statistically, however, there is no reason that the first answer is the best one. Often, as we all know, it would have been better to continue our search, to generate more options, to evalute them a little bit longer, and then making a more profound and a more creative decision.
Asking, asking, and asking
Have you ever observed a master of creativity? One thing he would do most of the time is asking questions, questions, and more questions. Often he would write something in his little black book or in his iPad. Like a child he would ignore irritated faces of grown ups who have been asked tons of questions e.g. by their little ones – or who have in their opinion been asked even too many questions. Instead the creative mind would indulge himself in satisfying his lust for curiosity by throwing questions at them. It does not take creative genius to ask questions. It takes courage, curiosity, persistency, patience, and sometimes charm, sensitivity, and politeness. Plus often the willingness to listen. An attitude unfortunately not many people are used to practice any longer in today´s hectic times.
Collecting, storing and organizing Information
Masters of creativity love collecting tons of information. Quantity is king for them (rather than quality to start with). They believe that the more information they acquire, the more perspectives they can obtain, and the higher the probability will be to generate proper solutions. Afterwards they store collected information and ideas in order of browsing through them over and over again. They judge the value of all information pieces and ideas by having set up criteria which suit the specific problem (e.g. which criteria are essential, desirable, optional, etc.?). Often they will add their own experience and intuition to judge and to rank the ideas. Finally, they would discuss their ideas with other people to get feedback, to refine them, and to further develop them.
LEVEL 2 – Understand the Benefit of changing Perspectives
In a next step you should embrace the concept of altering the perspective you´re looking at a problem. You can vastly expand your possibilities until to realize something new once you´ll have changed your point of view. That´s why highly creative people love playing around with changing perspectives like little kids love pretending they would be one of their favorite comic heros, sports idols, etc. Masters of creativity constantly try to find new perspectives on an issue by restructuring and remodeling it in some way. If they are lost or stuck, they would look at it in different ways until they would come up with one or various solutions. The more times you express a problem in a different way, the more likely it is that you´ll arrive at a new and deeper perspective.
That´s how you remodel and reconstruct your problem:
- Switch perspectives, the more often and the more diverse, the better
- Question everything, don´t accept anything
- Chunk up (generalize the problem at hand by making it more abstract) and also
- Chunk down (go deeper and deeper to the root of the issue by making it more specific)
- Change the sentences and the words of the problem statement by rephrasing it.
- Use whatever words you´d like to. There´s no right and wrong
- Separate the parts from the whole. Fractionize the problem. Slice it apart piece by piece. Move from one detail to another until you´ll arrive at its origin.
- Examine all the factors and relationships that may influence the issue
A highly effective Exercise to change Perspectives
Let´s assume you have a great new business idea, you´re just at the beginning of wanting to evaluate it and you´re not sure about how to undertake next steps to further review it. That´s a classic example of trying to look at your idea using multiple perspectives:
In a first step, write down your business idea from your point of view.
Formulate the idea, its USP, etc.
In a second step, write it from the perspective of potential customers.
How would they describe it? What´s important to them?
What would they possibly like and not like?
In a third step, formulate the idea from the perspective of other key stakeholders, e.g. possible business partners, employees, investors, relevant organizations, etc.
Finally, synthesize all perspectives into one all-encompassing idea statement
Having written multiple versions from different perspectives on the same idea, will have generated different perspectives with different possibilities.
Highly creative people would even go a step further:
They would imagine that they represent the problem, that they are the problem or at least part of it (which sometimes is the case in reality). It´s what I call being “in the eye of the storm.“ By trying to see the problem from its own perspective they somehow merge with the problem. As a consequence they often find truly innovative and creative solutions. Imagine you are the product manager at a sporting goods company and you were asked to develop and to market the new ball for NFL´s next Super Bowl championship game.
Following the “in the eye of the storm“ approach you might ask yourself the following questions:
- How would I feel being the new ball?
- How would I like to fly through the air?
- What would I like to achieve?
- How would others like to play with me?
- How could I score best?
LEVEL 3 – Aspire being a Non-Expert
Many people strive to become an expert of some sort. They often believe that it´s needed to get recognition and to build their credibility upon. Masters of creativity, however, have realized that the more expert you become, the more difficult it is to stay open-minded and to produce truly creative ideas.
In this third, and most challenging level towards becoming a creative mind, it´s all about not to specialize your thinking and not to become an expert.
Experts often put borders and imaginative walls around their thinking. They have a tendeny to build their searching strategies on what they know best. As a result they often arrive at repetitive (and useless) conclusions. They fail to investigate the whole issue by only looking at (known) parts of it.
On the contrary, non-experts approach issues with a non-polluted mind. Since they lack expertise – and as such being borderless thinkers – they can pull any problem apart, look at every single piece of it, and often come forward with creative and innovative ideas.
Non-experts get inspired by other non-experts who themselves are full of ideas and imagination. They would talk to and interview people from totally different backgrounds, i.e. being far away from their problem at hand.
Written by Andreas von der Heydt is the Head and Director of Kindle Content at Amazon in Germany. Before that he held various senior management positions at Amazon and L’Oréal. He’s a leadership expert and management coach. He also founded Consumer Goods Club. Andreas worked and lived in Europe, Australia, the U.S. and Asia. Andreas enjoys blogging as a private person here on LinkedIn about various exciting topics. His latest book is about what makes a future leader. All statements made, opinions expressed, etc. in his articles only reflect his personal opinion.